Is there a word for the case where a number has been converted to something with a trailing ‘K’ (and possibly ‘M’ for millions, ‘B’ for billions, ...)?

Example: 250,000 changes to 250K

It will be used in a sentence like “The number is ...”, like hyphenated and capitalized are used in “The word is hyphenated” and “The character is capitalized”.

Context: I’m programming a set of functions to deal with character and number formatting. For most of those functions, the name is simple and obvious: uppercase(), round() and trim(). Until now, I’ve used number_shorten(), which is not very descriptive, and someone reading my code would have to guess what it actually does, and therefore I’m looking for a better word to describe my function.

  • 1
    contracted? (I can't say that it's appropriate. I just would understand its usage in this context.)
    – SrJoven
    Aug 25, 2014 at 11:59
  • 2
    It also says they are called numeric abbreviations.
    – user66974
    Aug 25, 2014 at 12:09
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    @JeffreyRoosendaal I got a little excited for a when I remembered the word "decimate", which I believed meant "reduce to a tenth"; unfortunately, it actually means "reduce by a tenth" (i.e. take down to 90%). But if "decimate" had meant "reduce to 10%", you could've used "millesimate" (or maybe "millesimamate"?) for K-ifying a number, and (at a stretch) "milionesimate" for M-ifying, and some kind of play on "denominate" for the generic "reduce by a factor of or express in units of N".
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 25, 2014 at 13:36
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    I'd say you were rescaling the number.
    – keshlam
    Aug 25, 2014 at 16:36
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    @slebetman: That depends on the context of the program, whether the end-user of the software expects "Million" and "Billion", (but then wouldn't it be T for "Thousand", rather than K?).
    – jxh
    Aug 26, 2014 at 8:21

12 Answers 12


In computing circles, we often refer to numbers like 10K, 24M, 120G as being human-readable or humanized numbers. This is often in the context of byte counts, which can get notoriously unwieldy with modern storage sizes (e.g. saying I have 323416563175 bytes free on my computer), though I have seen it applied to other contexts as well.

For example, the man page for the df utility contains this description:

 -H      "Human-readable" output.  Use unit suffixes: Byte, Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte,
         Terabyte and Petabyte in order to reduce the number of digits to three or less using
         base 10 for sizes.

There are entire packages designed to produce human-readable output, such as the humanize Python package.

  • 3
    This is much better than many others, because this is the existing terminology for this operation. Aug 26, 2014 at 1:29
  • 2
    The reason it is "human-readable" is because 24M is more easily understood by a human than 25165824. The reason it isn't 25M is because the software is actually reducing the value by units of 1024 (the traditional unit value for 1K is 2^10 in computing circles, as you may well know).
    – jxh
    Aug 26, 2014 at 6:35
  • @jxh: Many programs now allow the option of using base-1000 units (as the -H flag here does), or traditional base-1024 units (as df's -h flag will do). Part of this "new" trend seems to be the fact that some OSes (like OS X) have switched to reporting all sizes using base-1000 units.
    – nneonneo
    Aug 26, 2014 at 14:28
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    @nneonneo : don't blame Apple for it ... MacOS is actually pretty good about reporting 'MiB' vs. 'MB' (Mebibytes vs. Megabytes; 10^6 vs. 2^20). The problem came from hard drive manufacturers trying to make their drives sound more impressive (2TB = 1.82TiB)
    – Joe
    Aug 26, 2014 at 23:12

I don't believe there is a specific term which applies only to numbers, but we can say such numbers are abbreviated.

For example, the University of North Carolina says of such numeric suffixes:

K: an informal abbreviation for one thousand used in expressions where the unit is understood, such as "10K run" (10 kilometers) or "700K disk" (700 kilobytes or kibibytes).

M: informal abbreviation for million in expressions where the base unit is understood, as in "500M hard drive" (500 megabytes or mebibytes).

And, if "K" and "M" are abbreviations, then numbers expressed with them have been abbreviated.

  • 1
    +1; let me do some editing to see if I can convince the downvoter to reconsider.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 25, 2014 at 12:25
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    Good suggestion. However while certainly being an abbreviation, It's not just an abbreviation. But I'm going to use this term until something more specific comes along. Thanks. Aug 25, 2014 at 13:00
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    of course it's an "abbreviation" - the whole point of the question is, what's a word for this type of abbreviation?
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:10

As you can see, none of the suggested terms, however good from the language point of view, would be self-describing and hence not suitable for an identifier, which is your use case.

As a programmer, I would stick to using a self-describing identifier, such as



The number is converted-to-thousands :)

You may read e.g. the Tim Ottinger's Rules for Variable and Class Naming, where the author recommends (among others):

  • Use Intention-revealing Names
  • Make Meaningful Distinctions

As you clearly stated that the domain of your word search is programming, then you probably should not ask the linguists :) Think as a client of your code - will they have to open the documentation to know what your method does or will they be able to understand it without doc?

N.B. You should also make clear (at least in your doc) what exactly you mean by K/M/G. Based on your example

250,000 changes to 250K

it looks that you mean just plain multiplies by 1,000. Although it is technically correct, for many programmers it might be misunderstood as they might expect binary multipliers (1024, 1048576, 1073741824) instead of decimal multipliers (1000, 1000000, 1000000000).

  • Thanks for pointing out I'm looking for an identifier. You're right, however sometimes the number should get a trailing M or B, for the input is variable. Also, to be a little more precise, I'm creating an AngularJS filter (like date, currency, format, ...) Aug 25, 2014 at 13:14
  • If the OP is looking for terms to use in computer code, I utterly agree with you, totally, Honza. But I believe the OP is looking for a natty slang word, used for this phenomenon.
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:11
  • Joe, the OP clearly states in the Context part of his post that he's programming and is looking for an identifier. Aug 26, 2014 at 11:08

250k is a shorthand representation of 250,000. In terms of code, a function could reasonably be called something like displayShorthand()

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    Worth noting that shorthand is the term PHP uses for this purpose ("shorthand byte values").
    – Kit Grose
    Aug 26, 2014 at 3:52
  • An outstanding insight. That word would be very useful in writing about this cultural phenomenon.
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:14

I suggest "denominate" for "express in units of".

denominate: (verb) to express or designate in some denomination

(noun) a number that specifies a quantity in terms of a unit (of measurement)

denomination: a value or size of a series of values or sizes (as of money)

Here, the value, rather than being a unit of measurement, is a pure dimensionless quantity; in other words the K or M parameter is the denominator.

Related, and also worth considering, is @keshlam's suggestion in the comments, to "rescale" (or simply "scale") the quantity:

rescale: Alter the scale of (a quantity), typically to make it smaller or simpler.

scale: To make in accord with a particular proportion or scale or To alter according to a standard or by degrees; adjust in calculated amounts.

  • 2
    The assigning of names to functions is a specialist use of English where distinctive, unambiguous, and mnemonic naming is often more important than formality and correctness. The main role of such a name is that it be easy to recall when seen and newly required. I believe there is no such single word, but "denominadte" would be a good candidate. Aug 25, 2014 at 14:32
  • @DanSheppard, denominadte isn't easy to recall because it isn't pronouncable and looks like a misspelling. Aug 26, 2014 at 17:44
  • @jwoat7, I believe it was a misspelling.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 26, 2014 at 17:48
  • We're expressing a number in some other base unit. Instead of "express in units of" let's call it "unitize".
    – kmort
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:03
  • 1
    This answer is the most expressive of the assumed intent: the quantification in comprehensive units.
    – Z Douglas
    Sep 2, 2014 at 18:21

Honza Zidek's suggestion, toKilo(), is simple and clear. If your procedure only substitutes K in place of the last three digits of a decimal number, that's probably best.

However, if it can substitute other suffixes (eg K, M, B for 3, 6, or 9 digits), consider toKMB(), or perhaps affixKMB(), using affix as verb that's more descriptive than to. From wiktionary, affix has a sense “To subjoin, annex, or add at the close or end; to append to” which is relevant in this context. Also consider appendKMB().

If in addition you have procedures that can add SI prefixes, then toKilo() causes ambiguity; more explicit names like subSIprefix() and subSIsuffix() might be desirable.

  • Nice solution, although I would prefer affix. The word append has a fixed meaning in programming languages and usually means just appending the given thing to the end of the original one without changing the original one. Here the OP means to change the original number - divide by 1,000 or 1,000,000 etc. Affix does not have this strong meaning for a programmer. If a method called append() changed the original object, I would be angry as a client of the method. Aug 26, 2014 at 9:30
  • If the OP is looking for terms to use in computer code, I utterly agree with you, totally, jwpat. But I believe the OP is looking for a natty slang word, used for this phenomenon.
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:11
  • In the SI system kilo- etc are referred to as prefixes (and the prefix for *1024 is kibi). Prefix is of course available as a verb but a function name would need to be slightly more descriptive.
    – Chris H
    Aug 27, 2014 at 21:26

Because the abbreviations are based on thousands, you might be able to derive something from K-notation (like scientific notation, but with thousands instead of powers of 10). Even though the letters change, they are based on K-groups. You could use K-reduce, for instance, although you'd have to write it to remove the hyphen.


This process is related to the math activity known as factoring, for example:

3 x + 21 = 3(x + 7)

So, you could say that the following is factoring by K:

250,000 = 250K

  • Reason for the downvote would be helpful. I aim to improve. Thanks!
    – jxh
    Aug 26, 2014 at 14:35
  • Not a downvoter, but "factoring" or very similar words already have multiple well-established uses in computing.
    – tripleee
    Aug 26, 2014 at 16:55
  • @tripleee: factoring computing doesn't seem to bring out anything in particular that isn't related to math in some way. Perhaps you are thinking of "refactoring".
    – jxh
    Aug 26, 2014 at 17:30
  • That, and factorization, and factorials. There is a standard Unix utility factor which performs factorization.
    – tripleee
    Aug 26, 2014 at 17:43
  • @tripleee: That is exactly related to the math exercise I described in my answer. I think your find argues that my answer is reinforcing the usual meaning of the word as it is used in computing.
    – jxh
    Aug 26, 2014 at 17:45

Engineering Notation refers to a format that is similar to scientific notation, with the restriction that the power of ten used must be a multiple of three. With this restriction in place, it is easy to refer to the quantity using a metric prefix.

A couple of examples:

0.0000157 Amps = 15.7 × 10-6 = 15.7 μA

12600 Volts           = 12.6 × 10 = 12.6 kV


The Wikipedia site links to some Perl Code that implements this functionality.

So, perhaps, ToEngineeringFormat() or something similar would work.


(Note: this replaces my deleted answer which was posted half-baked last night from my phone before I ran out of time to finish it)

In the SI system kilo- etc are referred to as prefixes (and the IEC prefix for *1024 is kibi, to avoid confusion between 2^10 and 10^3, though isn't widely used).

Prefix is of course available as a verb but a function name would need to be slightly more descriptive. Of course this prefix is a prefix to a unit, not to the value, so prefix_number() wouldn't make much logical sense. I guess generate_unit_prefix() is too long. In a sense you're appending to (discussed and dismissed above for good reasons) or postfixing/suffixing the number, but that wouldn't help the next maintainer of the code, and suffers the logical flaw that the number itself is actually modified.

Humanise was suggested, and is close enough to get my vote, but if you look at the docs for (e.g.) the Python package it's not a good fit (though some GNU tools may use the terms more in this sense, the docs I've read prefer the adjective human-readable).

The output of such a function is almost bound to be a string in many languages, while the input may be but is more likely to be a numeric data type. By analogy with toString(), I propose something along the lines of toReadableString() or toHumanString() to pair with made human-readable in prose use.



By coding standards the more descriptive you are the better as you have quite rightly pointed out.

The reason for using "MetricSymbol" that what you are describing is actually the correct term for the unit of measurement.


  • While the SI system is certainly "metric", the convention to use multipliers is by no means constrained to the metric system; indeed, kilodollars and kilobytes are not metric units at all.
    – tripleee
    Aug 26, 2014 at 16:52

What a great question! I think you're ahead of the curve on word-generation. I believe there is no such term. If there was I'd use it all the time.

Traditionally with single-word-requests, if the answer is "there is no such word", posters make suggestions for new slang for the issue at hand. Here we go...



"dot-com numbers"

Factoids: people in "the valley" (silicon valley) often refer to "kpa" or "k/pa" as in 390 kpa (salary, $390,000 per annum); this project's only brining in 20 kpa, etc.

So, if this came up in literature, one could perhaps use a phrase like "she always gave thousands using a 'K', like everyone else in Silicon Valley or Berlin ..."

Or, "She always said dot-com-numbers, like twenty 'K' instead of twenty thousand..."

Or for example, "Like every dreamer in silicon valley, she k'ized every number she mentioned, like twenty K or two hundred K, or if it was some particularly big dream, 800 K..."

Again - IMO there is, as yet, no current term for this really socially decisive phenomenon you raise, Jeffrey.

  • There is a term and anyone who've spent enough time designing user interfaces knows it: "human readable" or the colloquial "humanized". It's called human readable because if you ask the computer about the size of a file it will return something like 4352004350 and it takes time to count the number of digits whereas 4.3G directly tells you it's 4.3 Gigabytes.
    – slebetman
    Aug 26, 2014 at 4:42
  • (@slebetman (1) nneonneo already posted this answer (2) phrases like "anyone who've spent enough time designing user interfaces" (presumably "who's") sound pretentious. if you want to go through life sounding pretentious and arrogant, go for it. You should be aware that, there are many people on here who have vast, notable, careers in software.)
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:16
  • Another awesome ELU VOTING MOMENT. This is the only correct answer here ("I believe there is no such term") and it has two downvotes - proving it is correct in the ELU metaverse.
    – Fattie
    Aug 26, 2014 at 10:17
  • I think you are making things more complicated than they need to be. No, there isn't a word for meaning exactly what the op asks. However, in the original question, he gives the example, "The number is..." similar to "The word is (capitalized)" Taking from some of the other answers: Abbreviated, Humanized, Denominated, Scaled, Factored are all suggested words that could possibly fit. I disagree with saying there is "no current term", because the more-general words fit just fine. (Just attempting to explain the opposite viewpoint, Your answer is valid imo, just in a different direction) Aug 26, 2014 at 20:55
  • I can't seem to find anything on the Internet using "dot com numbers". Is that a phrase localized to some place?
    – corsiKa
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:22

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